I’ll be the first to admit, before I became involved in the Lose For Good campaign, childhood hunger was not a subject that was readily on my mind. Of course, I had seen those commercials with the malnourished children with the big, innocent eyes and felt so bad, but I never REALLY thought about it.
That all changed when I went out to California and heard people speak on behalf of Action Against Hunger and Share Our Strength. WE CAN do something to eliminate the unnecessary hunger of these children. WE CAN.
Did you know that on our planet, there are an estimated 55 MILLION children ages 5 and under that are suffering from moderate acute malnutrition and 19 MILLION who are suffering from SEVERE acute malnutrition?? Those numbers are astounding. Our world produces more enough food to feed the entire population TIMES TWO!
Children ages 5 and under who suffer from acute malnutrition will have physiological and mental detriments that will impact them their entire lives. This limits their opportunity, as well as the opportunity for future generations. Can you see how this has a domino-effect?
What physical effects does acute malnutrition have on children?
When the body isn’t getting the proper nourishment, it adapts by slowing down the processes needed for proper organ function, as well as tissue and cell maintenance and reducing physical activity. Their bodies actually begin to EAT at it’s own tissues in search of the nutrients and energy needed to survive. The first targets? Muscle and body fat. Metablolism slows, the immune system is weakened, kidney function is impaired, and thermal regulation is disrupted.
Moderate acute malnutrition is characterized by crucial deficiencies in vitamins and minerals. Conditions such as anemia (from a lack of iron), goiter (from a lack of iodine), and xerophthalmia (from a lack of vitamin A), as well as scurvy, pellagra, beriberi (from a lack of vitamin B), and rickets (from a lack of vitamin D) may be present.
Severe acute malnutrition is, obviously, the most severe form of malnutrition and will present in two ways.
*Marasmus: Characterized by extreme weight loss and loss of muscle tissue. Children will look almost elderly and their bodies are skeletal. By this point, their bodies’ vital processes have already been compromised: metabolism has slowed, thermal regulation has been disrupted, kidneys are unable to function regularly, intestinal absorption is diminished, the liver is unable to synthesize proteins and eliminate toxins properly, and all of this means the childrens’ bodies are unable to fight disease and illness like they should. Even if the child should survive, the damage and deficiencies caused by this disease can’t be overcome.
*Kwashiorkor: The principle characteristic of this is bilateral edema on both extremities and the face. Often, the children will have full faces. But, underneath these edemas, lies muscles that have been severely weakened, causing cramping and excruciating pain. These children also suffer from significant damage to their internal organs and systems.
Stay tuned for Part II…
Go here to sign the petition asking Al Gore to create a documentary addressing the issue of childhood hunger.
Also posted here.
Source: Action Against Hunger, Acute Malnutrition, A Preventable Pandemic